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Is this the time of year for two big turkeys?

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To me, the answer to this question is No. One thing that I do quite cheerfully every Thanksgiving is prepare a traditional menu: turkey, sweet potatoes, dressing, gravy, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. Anything that guests bring is laid on top of that base of Thanksgiving food.

As a matter of fact, this year I made that pumpkin cheesecake and regretted it. The cheesecake itself was very good and everyone liked it, but afterwards I came to think that I should have made plain pumpkin pies. I say "plain" but there is really nothing plain about the fragrant, spiced pumpkin pie covered in whipped cream, next to a cup of superb coffee (the only kind of coffee that I serve).

But anyway, Christmas is around the corner now. What I try to do each year is come up with another menu for it, because although we love our annual turkey and dressing, another round of it a month later can be a bit much. I am thinking in terms of pork or lamb for Christmas, but if I were a vegetarian I have to say that I would not be buying something disguised to look like meat. I know the soy folks love to make meat substitutes out of it, but if I were to eliminate the meat from Christmas dinner, I'd just go ahead and make a hearty casserole and serve it with whole-grain bread, winter vegetables and a lovely dessert.

Meat, by the way, does not fill you up and take away hunger--it is whole carbs that satisfy your stomach. A filling meal will work just fine if it is based on whole grains, which is why wild rice, brown rice and the specialty rices that I see at Sprouts and Whole Foods in Tucson are under consideration this year. And since many meat substitutes are based on tofu, it would be just fine to slice-and-dice some tofu, marinate it for flavor, and serve it in or alongside your grain dishes.

The meat sections of Sprouts and Whole Foods are fine examples of clean, humanely-raised meat. In the Jewish tradition a chicken-liver pate is frequently served; in fact, if I am to go by the food-television special from Chef Chuck Hughes, Merry Chuckmas, his Jewish girl friend reports that it was almost always served on Holidays in her home. You could serve a liver pate with the appetizers and then proceed to non-meat entrees.

Whatever I do, I will not repeat Thanksgiving; meanwhile, here's a recipe for liver pate that you can incorporate into your appetizer/canape list. It comes from the great French chef Jacques Pepin, who partnered with Julia Child for a group of television programs that still mark a high point in culinary television.



1/2 pound organic chicken livers, well-trimmed
1/2 small organic onion, thinly sliced
1 small organic garlic clove, smashed and peeled
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon thyme leaves
Kosher salt
1/2 cup water
1-1/2 sticks organic unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoons Cognac or brandy
Freshly ground pepper
Toasted baguette slices, for serving

In a medium saucepan, place the chicken livers, onion, garlic, bay leaf, thyme and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Add the water and bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the livers are barely pink inside, about 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let it stand, covered, for 5 minutes.

Discard the bay leaf. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the livers, onion and garlic to a food processor; process until everything is coarsely pureed. With the machine on, add the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, until it is incorporated. Add the Cognac, season with salt and pepper and process until the pate is completely smooth. Scrape the pâté into 2 or 3 large ramekins. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the pâté and refrigerate until firm. Serve chilled.



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